FI Spotlight: Union Bank

Union Bank

Responses by Union Bank Senior Vice President Maha Madain, head of Consumer Deposits and chief designer of Banking By Design

Madain, Maha 2012 300 DPI.jpgQ: You recently unveiled Banking by Design. What was the inspiration behind the new service?
Union Bank’s Banking By Design is an innovative new way of banking that was created in direct response to consumer research and demand for more control and transparency in banking.  It addresses the way consumers live their lives — they want a true value exchange and don’t want to pay for items and services they don’t need or want as part of a bundled product.  Banking  By Design’s innovation builds on the idea that today’s consumer expects the ability to customize and personalize the products and services that are important to them. It’s a step in what will become a cultural shift by banks to adapt our business offerings to suit the customer’s highly individualized needs.



Q: What has the customer response been to Banking by Design?
Customer response has been positive – existing clients and new customers appreciate the opportunity to customize their checking accounts based on their financial needs.

Q: Is there a specific age group that is using it the most (i.e. Gen Y, Baby Boomers)?
While it’s still too soon to analyze the results, the research indicated that Banking By Design will be more appealing to younger customers (such as Gen Y), although not exclusively.

Q: Has Banking by Design increased account openings for Union Bank?
It’s too soon to determine as we’re still evaluating results.

Q: Are Banking by Design customers traditionally online bankers, in-branch users or mobile users?
We’ve seen a mix of online, in-branch and mobile users.  Consumers can design their account at and then call or visit a Union Bank branch to open the account.  Banking By Design accounts can also be designed in a Union Bank branch with the support of a personal banker, and consumers will have the ability to open their account online in early 2013, giving them yet another convenient option.

Q: In an age when many checking accounts cost money, Banking by Design is low (to no cost) depending on how much a user deposits each month. Do you offer many free services to your customers? What was the decision behind offering this low cost tool?
Banking By Design is an affordable option for our customers and prospective customers. Everyone who wants greater control of their checking account and finances will be empowered with Banking By Design and the ability to design their checking account to meet their needs and their budget. We will continue to offer a range of banking products and services in order to give our customers options and a greater ability to design the services they need based on their individual circumstances.

Q: Where is Banking by Design available? Why did you choose to release the initial launch there? What area you are planning to launch these services next?
Banking By Design is available throughout California, which is where most of Union Bank’s branches are located. We are exploring additional locations, including the Pacific Northwest.

FI Spotlight: Attracting Younger Bank Customers: A Case Study of Yorkshire Building Society

The UK’s Yorkshire Building Society (YBS) is a bank that wanted to be sure they were attracting younger patrons that would become long term loyal customers. When it began looking into traditional marketing approaches geared towards younger consumers, the bank noticed that most banks chose to emphasize savings accounts with competitive rates. Realizing that there was a big assumption on which products in this segment actually wanted, YBS chose to conduct its own market research. Here’s what they did and what they found.

The goal of their market research was to determine the customer orientation of young people. They wanted to find out about the financial requirements of younger customers in order to offer them products that would meet their identified needs. This was a distinct and deliberate shift away from product-led research to a customer-led approach, recognizing that customers are interested in more than just the mix of products and their prices. Consumers also consider non-financial factors that include quality of service, added value and overall customer experience. YBS recognized an opportunity to differentiate itself from competitors by moving beyond the financial value framework.

Yorkshire Building Society
Image source:

The market research began with extensive qualitative focus groups composed of young people in order to find out about their motivations and financial requirements. Two important early findings were that young people have very little desire to save money and that having a debit card is considered extremely important beginning at about age 14. Not surprisingly, the under 12 population is largely dependent upon their parents for all financial decision making. In the 12-15 years of age group, however, young people become more independent and concerned about being able to spend, although with the knowledge that parental protection and advice is nearby. Starting at age 16, most young people have a strong desire to manage their own financial affairs, and this is where the cash card becomes a must-have item.

Another round of focus groups drew upon four distinct market segments organized by life stage: Couples planning to have children, parents who control children’s accounts, youth aged 12-15 that have their own accounts, and young people aged 16-21 with their own accounts. Expectant or new parents were more interested in long-term saving products with an eye on their children’s future, promotions that offered new families relevant “freebies,” and accounts for children that are controlled only by parents.

young bank customers
Image source:

By carefully researching the financial requirements of different market segments (in this case, age groups), YBS has been able to develop a comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) system that keeps messaging highly targeted to the needs of each segment, which is much more effective than a constant barrage of indiscriminate communications.

*This post originally appeared on

About Elizabeth: Elizabeth A. is a freelance writer whose work on entrepreneurship, tech, and social media has been published by The Huffington Post, PolicyMic, USA Today, and more.  She regularly contributes to the corporate blog.

FI Spotlight: Arvest Bank

In our latest FI Spotlight we got the opportunity to speak with Jason Kincy, Marketing Director at Arvest Bank. In our Q&A below, Jason talks to us about the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, customer satisfaction and social media. Arvest Bank ranks highest both in the South Central Region and in the Southwest Region in the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Retail Banking Satisfaction StudySM. This is the fourth year that Arvest has been recognized with a regional award. Arvest has been ranked highest in satisfaction with retail banking in the Southwest (2010, 2011, 2012), Southeast (2009) and South Central (2010, 2012) regions.


Q: In a few sentences, can you tell me about Arvest Bank?
A: Arvest Bank operates more than 240 bank branches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas through a network of 16 locally managed banks, each with its own board of directors and management team. These banks serve customers in 90 communities with 12-hour weekday banking at most locations. Arvest also provides a wide range of banking services including loans, deposits, treasury management, asset and wealth management, life insurance, credit cards, mortgage loans and mortgage servicing. Arvest operates a mortgage company, asset management company, insurance division and mortgage servicing company.

Q: In the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, Arvest Bank scored among the best in all categories: overall satisfaction, product offerings, facility, account information, fees and account activities. What do you attribute to your success in scoring so high on the J.D. Power Rankings?
A: No bank is perfect and we have areas that we’re working hard to improve. Arvest focuses on providing many of the banking attributes that drive customer satisfaction. We operate a way that makes banking convenient no matter how the customer defines convenience – whether that’s at an extended hours branch location, on the phone, online or via mobile banking. When we do interact with customers on a personal transaction, our associates provide an efficient and courteous experience for the customer. These interaction experiences combined with fairly priced fees and an account lineup with options for everyone combine to create a satisfied customer.

Q: Do you have any advice for FI’s looking to raise their banking satisfaction scores?
A: Every institution and market is different, but there are some general principles that banks performing highly in customer service rating generally share, so we, like many banks study customer satisfaction studies and trends to learn from the top performers. Creating value to the customer is key to their satisfaction. Arvest is very responsive to customer feedback provided in person or through customer surveys and will take action when an adjustment is needed. This responsiveness allows us to fix small issues before they become large customer frustrations and to tweak our products or services based on customer needs, which leads to happier customers.

Q: On your website, you have a “How are we doing?” survey for customers. How long have you had this survey on your site?
A: We have conducted online surveys for several years. The customer has the option to choose to provide feedback on a branch, telephone or online experience.

Q: Is it a useful tool for obtaining customer feedback?
A: Yes. We receive many surveys from customers and they are generally very transparent in their feedback. The surveys are provided to the local market where the customer does their banking so that local management can address service levels accordingly and follow up directly with the customer when appropriate.

Q: Arvest received a high score in the product offerings section of the J.D. Powers Rankings. What range of products do you offer to your customers?
A: We believe our product lineup has something for everyone, whether you want an extremely basic account or an account with total relationship value added services.  The addition of perks that are becoming more popular like family identity theft coverage has created an overall perception of value. Our checking accounts range from free with no balance requirements to fee based accounts with the options and perks customers have told us are important to them.

Q: We know mobile banking has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Have you seen the same trend with Arvest customers?
A: Arvest has provided free mobile banking since late 2007 and transitioned to an improved offering in October of 2011. We have SMS/Text banking, mobile web banking and apps for iPhone and Android. Our growth over the past 12 months has been phenomenal, with our user base doubling in size. Mobile banking will continue to grow at a torrid pace and we expect it to become increasingly more integral in how customers do their banking.

Q: Let’s talk social. Arvest is on Facebook and Twitter. Do you view social channels as a good way to interact with customers?
A: Yes, it allows us to participate in communication spaces where many of our customers are. It’s another way to share your brand themes and persona.

Q: How has social media helped Arvest with customer communication?
A: Social media has allowed us to share information that doesn’t fit a traditional website such as community events, up to date announcements and consumer education. A very valuable component of social media to banks is the ability to observe customer sentiment and opinions and then apply those to maintaining quality service. Many customers will be more unfiltered with their opinion in social media than they will in a formal survey.

Q: Is there anything else you want to add?
A: Maintaining quality service requires an ongoing effort to continue to deliver on customer expectations. Even though Arvest has won multiple J.D. Power and Associates trophies over the past few years, we have a team of associates who look for weaknesses in the study to identify areas where we can improve. We also research the top performers to try and learn what makes them successful.

FI Spotlight: Vantage Credit Union

We got the chance to interview Eric Acree, executive vice president at Vantage Credit Union (VCU) about the TweetMyMoney program VCU launched in 2009. VCU was early to the social scene when they launched TweetMyMoney, the world’s first banking-by-Twitter service, on September 28, 2009. The service is available exclusively to Vantage members and is free of charge. With TweetMyMoney, members can monitor their account balances, deposits, withdrawals, holds and cleared checks with simple commands. Members can also transfer funds within their own account to different account types (checking to savings, checking to loans, etc.).

We chatted with Eric to learn more about the program:

Q: Where did the idea for the campaign come from, and how have you seen it grow over the past three years?

A: The idea for TweetMyMoney came out of an internal online brainstorming session between some technology staff and business staff (all participants were social media users as well). At that time, we did not have a ton of money available to hire a firm to create a mobile app, but we desperately wanted to provide something to our members. So, we were discussing possible ways to create a mobile banking solution for little money. There was much discussion on how we could possibly use SMS technology, which then led to ways to possibly use Facebook and Twitter. The Twitter platform provided the perfect opportunity for us and we were already familiar with it. Not everyone uses Twitter and not all Twitter users are comfortable using TweetMyMoney. So the growth of the service (when compared to more traditional/mass market mobile banking solutions) has been relatively small. However, we have several hundred members who use the service a lot, on a regular basis. It’s important to note that Vantage is currently developing more traditional mobile banking apps and plans to offer them to members late this summer. We will have a native mobile banking app for the iPhone, Android and iPad.

Q: What (if any) benefits do members receive from using TweetMyMoney versus SMS banking notifications?

A: There isn’t much difference between the two technologies since TweetMyMoney operates in a similar way to SMS. From a cost standpoint, using TweetMyMoney is a much cheaper option for Vantage since we did not have to invest money into a SMS infrastructure. For members who are Twitter users, the benefit is using a familiar technology to quickly and safely obtain information about their accounts. Obtaining information via TweetMyMoney is faster than using a web page (or even a mobile app) since TweetMyMoney does not require the same log-in steps.

Q: How have you addressed security concerns/questions around using Twitter to send and receive confidential banking information? Do you get many member inquiries about security concerns over using Twitter, or are they excited to have a new way to access financial information?   

A: Like other technology innovations launched in the past, TweetMyMoney quickly generated a lot of passionate commentary and opinions in the technology blogosphere after we announced its launch. We have incorporated several security layers and measures to ensure it is safe to use. When members use TweetMyMoney, the information contained in their tweets, as well as the information sent back to them, is generic, e.g. transaction commands, dollar amounts, dates, account code types, etc. In fact, most of this type of information is sent to millions of people every day by virtually all financial institutions in the form of e-alerts. If a member’s Twitter account was somehow compromised, all a hacker would see is this generic information, which is useless to the hacker. The key point is: no account number, nor other sensitive personal or account information, is displayed in TweetMyMoney. All the sensitive information is kept safe at Vantage behind the online banking firewall. Vantage also implemented a new security feature called Correspondence Authentication Codes inside our online banking service. So, every outbound electronic communication originating from Vantage (including tweets from TweetMyMoney) contains a unique code for each day of the week, thus ensuring the message is authentic when the member recognizes their unique code. Members can view and change these codes from their user profile section of our online banking service. In summary, we have taken extraordinary steps to ensure TweetMyMoney is safe. We ran its design and security controls by an industry-leading firm that has an exceptional track record in their line of work. They provided an unbiased opinion and helped validate our approach before we launched TweetMyMoney. Just for the record, in the nearly three years of the TweetMyMoney service being live, we have experienced ZERO security problems. Not one single security breach of any kind has occurred with TweetMyMoney.

Q: Vantage CU is socially savvy, with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels. What platform do you see the most member engagement on? Are members more interested in interacting with Vantage CU via Twitter or Facebook?

A: We are active on our Twitter handle and Facebook page. Our YouTube channel has few subscribers and we plan to utilize this platform more in the future. But, we see the most engagement with our members via Twitter.

Q: Final thoughts before we wrap up this interview?

A: The real beauty of TweetMyMoney is we have devised a safe and innovative way to communicate important financial information via an unsecure social media network. TweetMyMoney was our first (and boldest) mobile banking step, but we are excited to be bringing the native mobile banking apps for iPhone, Android and iPad users later this summer.

Want to see more of TweetMyMoney? Check out VCU’s videos about the program or connect with VCU on Twitter.

FI Spotlight: Philadelphia Federal Credit Union

As Financial Literacy Month comes to a close, financial institutions and organizations have enacted various campaigns to educate members and customers across America. The staff has been closely watching some initiatives including NCUA’s Twitter campaign and the American Bankers Association’s 16th Annual Teach Children to Save Day, and in May we will reveal how our readers endeavored to help their community from our very own poll.

To better understand the community they serve, Philadelphia Federal Credit Union (PFCU) in Pennsylvania revealed the results of its first annual Financial Literacy Survey. The survey researched the financial knowledge of Philadelphia-area residents, taking particular interest in their saving practices, spending habits and financial attitudes. PFCU’s research revealed that more than one-third of Philadelphians are in critical need of improving their financial condition, indicating they were not able to save any money in the past 12 months. Additionally 45 percent of Philadelphia credit card owners typically carry a balance month-to-month and 79 percent of survey respondents were less than “very successful” at spending within their budget in the past year.

As a result of the survey findings, PFCU is ramping up its educational programs and looking to better cater to its current and prospective members. spoke with Philadelphia Federal Credit Union’s Accredited Financial Educator Karl J. Bernhard about the survey findings and what they mean for the institution and financial industry at large. (BDC): What survey statistic did you find most surprising, and why?
Karl J. Berndhard (KJB):
I found it most surprising that more than one-third (37%) of Philadelphians were not able to save any money in the past 12 months. This tells me that Philadelphians are in critical need of learning the skills to better manage their money. In response to this finding, PFCU is expanding its free financial education programming now through May 31 to the public in an effort to instill healthy financial habits.

BDC: For Americans and Philadelphians trying to get their financial condition in shape, what small steps can people take to try and improve their financial health?
I always say there are five steps you can take to take control of your finances immediately. The simple steps include – create a budget, track spending, open a savings account, check your credit report and then last but not least, take advantage of financial education that is available to you like PFCU’s free seminars on budgeting, saving, and credit.

BDC: What tools and/or services do you offer to your members to help them budget their money?
: We offer a Budgeting & Credit Seminar on a regular basis to our members that helps them understand the importance of saving and tracking where their money goes. We give them the tools they need to create a realistic budget and manage their credit.

BDC: With the surge in online and mobile banking, do you believe that having tools available to members 24/7 is helping improve their financial literacy and financial health?
It’s certainly making the information more available to them and making it easier than ever for people to track their spending. In addition to offering free 24/7 online banking, we plan to have a mobile app up and running before the end of the year. We also recently launched a Facebook and Twitter page and regularly post and tweet financial tips and advice.

BDC: How have your members reacted to the survey findings?

KJB: I think it is human nature to be curious about how other people are doing financially. This survey for better or worse shows Philadelphians that they aren’t alone. Seventy nine percent of Philadelphians haven’t been very successful at keeping spending within their budget during the past twelve months and 84% of Philadelphians surveyed consider themselves less than very knowledgeable about personal finance.  The good news is there are simple steps everyone can take to improve their financial condition and through our financial education seminars we are making a better financial future accessible.

BDC: What do you predict will be the focus of your financial literacy campaigns and annual survey next year?
Good question. I think it will be important to continue to take the temperature of Philadelphian’s wellness on an annual basis so that we can be sure our financial education seminars and other services we provide our members are fulfilling their needs and providing the greatest value. Many of the questions we ask Philadelphians will remain the same. Hopefully the results will improve!

You can read more about Philadelphia Federal Credit Union’s survey here or reach out to them on Twitter

How are you helping customers and members to your financial institution? Tweet at @Bankingdotcom or let us know in the comments below.

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FI Spotlight: University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union

Banks and credit unions have been creating some interesting campaigns to attract customers leaving large corporate banks. To continue the momentum from Bank Transfer Day, University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union launched the “lipstick on a bank” campaign to educate consumers and increase members.

In order to build credibility and raise awareness of the benefits offered by credit unions, University of Kentucky FCU launched the campaign and microsite at the beginning of 2012 to demonstrate that, “You can  put lipstick on a bank, but it’s still a bank.” The campaign and microsite focused on three main benefits to consumers when they join a credit union like University of Kentucky FCU: membership, checking and loans, particularly emphasizing lower fees and better rates.

Megin Morgan, member development specialist at University of Kentucky FCU says of the campaign, “Our goal was to keep it simple and straightforward and to demonstrate why going with a credit union was beneficial.” The credit union has already seen a large increase in new accounts from the campaign which ran during the months of January and February 2012. With 706 new accounts in 2012 reported in early March, and 18 percent increase from 2011, Morgan notes, “We saw this as a successful credit union awareness campaign that seemed to get people’s attention. We could possibly re-run it again in the near future to keep the credit union movement momentum going.”

You can read more about University of Kentucky FCU’s campaign from Credit Unions Online here.

How are you bringing new customers and members to your financial institution? Tweet at @Bankingdotcom or let us know in the comments below.

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FI Spotlight: Des Moines Police Officers’ Credit Union

Iowa-based Des Moines Police Officers’ CU kicked off its mobile banking offerings by increasing adoption 45 percent in just four months. To increase adoption of the mobile web banking service, DMPOCU held a contest sponsored by Credit Union Service Organization  (CUSO), CU*Answers , and the Xtend CUSO, which gave members a chance to win an Apple iPad for every Mobile Web Banking log-in. DMPOCU CEO Janet Lintin is looking to expand the credit union’s mobile banking capabilities and provides insights for other financial organizations looking to increase mobile banking adoption.

“Focus on people who are already comfortable using electronic delivery, including home banking, bill pay and e-statements, and then leverage those systems to carry your message.”

Des Moines Police Officers’ CU’s (DMPOCU) “Me 247 Mobile Web Banking” gets its mobile-optimized website from CU*Answers . While the mobile web product is free, CU*Answers charges credit unions for “It’s Me 247 SMS Text Banking” and “Mobile App Banking” products.

You can read more about Des Moines Police Officers’ CU’s mobile banking offering here.

How are you helping your members go mobile? Let us know by tweeting @bankingdotcom or adding your thoughts in the comment section below.


FI Spotlight: Truliant Federal Credit Union

Truliant FCU in North Carolina is giving away iPads to promote the use of their online personal financial management (PFM) tool, FinanceWorks. Truliant members who sign up to use FinanceWorks between July 6 and September 29 are automatically entered to win money and/or iPads. FinanceWorks is free for Truliant members.

Each week, Truliant will award $100 to a member, and each month an iPad2 will be awarded.

A visual of how to sign up for FinanceWorks is below.

FI Spotlight: BankAtlantic

It can be difficult to educate consumers on the importance of taking control of their finances. With so many management tools available and advice coming from every direction, consumers may not know who to listen to. Banks can take this opportunity to demonstrate to their customers how important managing finances and accounts can be, and how to best utilize the tools available.

BankAtlantic in Florida recently explained to their customers:

“Not checking up on your personal finances is like driving a car without a dashboard – you don’t know how fast you’re moving, how much fuel you have or how far you’ve gone.

But with a “digital dashboard” on your computer, you can get a concise, consolidated view of your progress – everything from credit card balances and how much is in your savings account to bills that are due.”

BankAtlantic used the analogy of driving to draw a comparison that using the online banking digital dashboard with FinanceWorks was like driving a car well-equipped with all the right safety features. Banks and Credit Unions can take a cue from BankAtlantic and remember that at times, offering beneficial tools isn’t enough; financial institutions must demonstrate the need and communicate how their offerings best serve their members and customers.

You can read additional information on Bank Atlantic’s Website here.


How are you helping customers and members to understand the importance of financial management? Tweet at @Bankingdotcom or let us know in the comments below.

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FI Spotlight: M&T Bank

Last month, M&T Bank launched new financial management and budgeting capabilities within online banking called FinanceWorks. For just $0.99 a month, the bank’s customers can manage all their financial transactions in one place, whether they’re executed on an M&T account or not. To provide further insight to members, M&T Bank also added a service which allows members to get their FICO credit score for a monthly fee. Mike Shryne, manager of alternative banking at M&T explains that the credit score is a true FICO score, giving members a snapshot of their “creditworthiness.” Shryne indicated that this added service was prompted by customers’ “heightened awareness of how important one’s credit score is to the ability to borrow, and also to monitor financial security in the age of identity theft.”  Since M&T updates FICO scores monthly, members can track their credit over time.

While some may be wary of the fees associated with these services, Shryne warns that these solutions prevent additional fees from untrustworthy third party sites.  Some “free” credit sites are misleading and end up charging expensive fees until you cancel the service, making a straight fee of $2.99 for “a straight service” a fair price.

You can read the full New York Times article here.


How are you helping your customers manage their credit and finances end to end? How important is it to give customers a one-stop dashboard of services and information? Tweet at @bankingdotcom or let us know in the comments below.